Staten Finds Redemption in WVU Game-Winner - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Staten Finds Redemption in WVU Game-Winner

WACO, Texas -

Juwan Staten had no intention of giving the ball up as the final seconds ticked off of the clock in a tie game Tuesday night.

To understand the mentality West Virginia's junior guard took into the play that would ultimately win the game, you must first understand two things. First of all, Staten is the team's unquestioned leader. And second, he felt like if the Mountaineers lost, it would have been his fault.

In a 64-64 game, Staten had left five points off of the board from missed free throws. He had connected on just one of his attempts and after each one clanged off of the rim, he hid none of his disgust as his own inability to make such a simple shot.

So there he was with the ball in his hand, looking to his coach for instructions as he dribbled near midcourt before setting WVU's last offensive possession in motion.

"I knew the ball would be in my hands and I just needed to make something happen," said Staten. "It just felt like I couldn't let the team down. I'd already missed a number of free throws in the game and I just felt like I needed to do something."

The Mountaineers moved their shooters into position in an attempt to draw out defenders from clogging the lane and keeping Staten from driving to the basket as he has made a habit of doing this season.

"It wasn't really a play," Staten said of what happened next. "[Bob Huggins] pretty much just told me that the ball was going to be in my hands, run the shot clock down and then make something happen, so that's what I did. They give me a lot of freedom, they respect me, they believe in me and that gives me a lot of confidence, so I just went out there and did what he asked me to do."

He pushed to his right and found himself running the baseline. Just under the rim, he left his feet and sent a reverse layup in to put his team ahead by two.

"I knew that I pretty much was the one that was going to take that last shot. That was something I made up in my mind," Staten said after the 66-64 final. "I wouldn't sleep good at night if I didn't do something to win that game."

The thing is no one in that celebrating visitor locker room would have put the blame on Staten if the results had gone the other way and none of the celebration happened at all.

His coaches and teammates know what he did in the game positively, including a game-high 15 points and nine assists, connecting on more than 50 percent of his shots in playing all 40 minutes.

"We have a compilation of plays that add up to a win, so one person's actions are not at fault, so throw that out the window," Eron Harris said regarding Staten's claim that he let the team down. "To redeem himself, he went and made the game-winning shot. This is our guy."

Their guy sprinted down the court after he connected on the game-winner and when Baylor's attempt to ruin it all was too late, Staten was mobbed by his teammates.

The win makes this team 12-9 overall with a 4-4 conference record and though there are major holes that have resulted in losses piling up, the way they held on Tuesday is a glimmer of hope for a group that routinely found itself on the losing end of close games this season.

"A lot of people are writing us off, saying we're the same team as last year, but that's far from the truth," said Staten. "We have a good group of guys, we all care for each other, we all play for each other. We have tough games, but we go through it as a group and we just keep our head up and we keep fighting."

Bob Huggins said earlier this season that when a team's best player is also its hardest worker, things look bright because the rest of his teammates tend to follow his lead.

Staten has proven in his junior season that he is a leader worth following for the Mountaineers. 

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